A group of House Democrats are calling for a hearing on the proposed merger between Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Media Company.
Minority members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee — Reps. Anna Eshoo (Calif.), Mike Doyle (Pa.) and Doris Matsui (Calif.) — called for the acquisition to be scrutinized by the panel, especially in the wake of a recent Federal Communications Commission vote.
“This $3.9 billion deal would create the largest television broadcast company in the country, and as such, raises important questions about the future of our country’s media that must be examined by Congress,” the Democrats wrote.
The letter was sent to Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnBig Tech should pay for damaging mental health Facebook to testify in Senate after report finds Instagram harms mental health House Oversight Democrat presses Facebook for 'failure' to protect users MORE (R-Tenn.) — the chair of the subcommittee on technology.
Democrats have criticized a recent move by the FCC to reinstate a media ownership rule that they believe directly paved the way for the Sinclair-Tribune deal. The rule, called a “UHF discount,” lets major broadcasters count certain local television stations at a discount towards the national media ownership cap.
“The Republican FCC majority reinstated the UHF discount despite a previous finding that it was obsolete in the digital era,” the letter reads. “Its revival only serves as a loophole in the media ownership rules that opens the door to a wave of broadcast consolidation, as evidenced by this transaction.”
“We’ve long had a tradition of not holding hearings on mergers,” said a spokesman for Walden.
Last week, a coalition of public interest groups asked a federal court to block the UHF discount from going into effect. One of the groups, Free Press, accused the FCC of engaging in quid pro quo with Sinclair.